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Cyclists and Lorries: Prioritising Road Safety over Blame Culture

In early June, a wonderful but somewhat surprising video went viral on social media. A young girl, confidently riding a bike on an A road gives a HGV driver a thumbs up as he overtakes, praising his wide and patient manoeuvre. We describe the video as surprising as it contrasts the usual destructive media posts on HGVs and cyclists. Typically, our screens and papers are overrun with negative press describing ‘yet another’ accident between the two vehicles, and upon reading, it can be difficult to ignore the overtones demonising HGV drivers and its accompanying scaremongering discourse. Unfortunately, collisions between HGVs and cyclists do happen, but, so do many safe overtakings, and yet the video shared earlier this summer is a rarity within UK news.

Despite the prevalence of negative press on HGVs road-sharing with bikes, the reality of collisions is significantly less than suggested. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents,only 1.5% of cyclist casualties happen in collisions with HGVs, with the majority of accidents (79%) actually occurring between bikes and cars. However, due to the size and weights of heavy goods vehicles, the 1.5% of accidents which involve a HGV accounts for 16% of cyclist fatalities.Although these statistics are significantly lower than the general media suggests and whilst we are keen to tackle the media-stimulated stigma of HGV drivers, here at Barnes, we do understand that the figures of cyclist casualties and fatalities are too high, and we are certain that other road-users can agree; regardless of your vehicle type, everyone should be entitled to travel safely on Britain’s roads. The following will therefore focus upon the ways in which the industry is aiming to overcome cyclist safety issues, and largely, it seems that education is key.

In many accidents between HGVs and cyclists, it seems that limited vision (from the cab) is a contributory factor. Equally, it appears that many cyclists do not know the limitations to a cab driver’s vision, and so a number of programmes have been launched in an attempt to better this knowledge between the two parties. However, not all of these have been met with positive reactions – just last year the Department for Transport faced criticism for producing a video which cyclists labelled as ‘victim blaming’. The text depicted a cyclist being caught by a HGV as it turned left at a junction and was narrated with the caption: “Don’t get caught between a lorry and a left turn. Hang back”.

Evenly, we highlight how HGV drivers face similar accusations; an online publication produced an article on the Metropolitan Police’s ‘Exchanging Places’ programme and wrote about how it aimed to educate cyclists on the ways in which HGV drivers ‘choose’ not to see cyclists. On overview, it seems that blaming occurs on both sides, but it is imperative to consider that neither parties wish for an accident to happen, and in the event of one, there will be damage for both vehicle operators – if not physically, psychologically. Instead, we hope that attention can be shifted from this blame culture to instead fall upon the awareness of the limited perspective of both drivers and cyclists.

In some parts of the country, this education is well under way; the ‘Exchanging Places‘ programme aims to address this very matter through advanced technology, using a 360-degree film to display the reduced vision from the perspective of a lorry driver and highlighting how a cyclist could position themselves when in the presence of a heavy goods vehicle. As it stands currently, police are planning to promote the film to schools, cycle clubs, youth centres and offices.  We hope that in the future it will be made available to an even greater demographic, including haulage companies and car drivers, as every road user would benefit from understanding the ‘safe spaces’ for cyclists to position themselves in. It would increase awareness and potentially reduce cyclist casualties and fatality statistics even further.

The perspective of cyclists has not been ignored; in London, over 1500 lorry and van drivers have participated in ‘cycling training’ to better understand the dangers that bike-riders may face. The course, accredited by the Fleet Operator Recognition and founded by Transport for London, sees drivers learning for three and a half hours in a classroom before taking a bike to the road for the same time period.

Additionally, Transport for London is launching a star safety system. The board will ‘grade’ HGVs based upon how much a driver can see from the cab without the use of mirrors or cameras. These ‘safety permits’ are set to come into effect as early as next year with the view to ban ‘zero star’ rated heavy goods vehicles from Greater London by 2020. By 2024, officials plan to increase this to a minimum of three stars. If awareness can be raised of both cyclist and HGV driver perspective – or lack of (and thus extra safety cautions needed to be taken by both) – we believe that this has the potential to dramatically reduce collisions.

Largely, the statistics need to be reduced – this goes without saying – but, it is evident that many industry bodies are exerting significant effort into planning and running what we deem to be effective campaigns which we hope will be rolled out across the country. We would encourage all drivers and keen cyclists to participate in the discussed programmes and to practice and promote the safety of all road users, and hopefully, in the near future, statistics on cyclist casualties and fatalities will be dramatically reduced.

Why is There No National Logistics Day?

August has long been known as ‘silly season’; this month alone we have seen National Afternoon Tea Week, National Left-Handed Day, National Prosecco Day and National Dog Day. Despite the seemingly arbitrary nature of such days, they have become a daily commonality, so much so that the media has now passed comment; Radio 1 recently took to doubting the necessity of having days dedicated to somewhat ridiculous causes – if they can be defined as a ‘cause’ that is. In reality, national days are little more than a marketing ploy. Admittedly, the marketing invention has proven undeniably successful, although perhaps most frustratingly it seems to be more successful for the bizarre national days rather than those that are truly in need of awareness, such as those that recognise illnesses or socio-economic issues. However, this got us thinking that there were perhaps issues and industries that are not allocated an awareness day, despite being arguably more important than the likes of ‘National Lazy Day’. There are various occupations and sectors that are vital to the UK economy and yet receive very little recognition, so here at Barnes we delve deeper into the question that, in our opinion, bares no rational answer – why is there is no National Logistics Day?

In recent months, we have expressed a belief that often, consumers are unaware of the process that brings the deliveries to their doorsteps and items to their local shops. Whilst a national day celebrating this process may help to bring about greater awareness, it also opens up an opportunity for what we would consider to be more significant still; it would allow for companies, industry bodies and the general public to celebrate the people behind logistics. It is vital to remember that although the supply chain process needs to be considered when making purchases, behind the packing, warehouse stocking and truck driving is a human being who is dedicated to providing a much-needed service. And with pressure mounting in the midst of a driver shortage crisis and the risk to businesses of losing employees due to Brexit, a National Day in which the nation and employers could come together may just be what is needed to remind logistics employees why their dedication matters, and could help towards boosting the industry’s image by promoting it as a brilliant career path that values their own.

The Road Haulage Association has made progress towards a day of this kind; for the past four years the industry body has hosted a ‘National Lorry Week’ in September. Whilst this is a step in the right direction, it places emphasis on the machinery as opposed to those who operate it. Additionally, it only promotes a narrow view of the logistics industry – whilst we appreciate that the RHA is a supporting body for road transport operators, the campaign leaves warehousing and storage specialists out of the celebration. A ‘National Logistics Day’ on the other hand would offer greater inclusivity of the entire supply chain.

Here at Barnes, we are always actively campaigning on behalf of logistic employees, from ensuring that all their rights are addressed to supporting workplace wellbeing. Under the umbrella term of wellbeing falls appreciation, as it truly does affect individual welfare. To address the concerns raised within this piece, we propose that National Lorry Week is combined with National Logistics Day, for even if these events go unrecognised to the general public, receiving acknowledgement from employers will boost morale, motivation and commitment. With persistence, this movement has the capability to achieve public attention which would subsequently aid the driver shortage and influence the consumer behaviour which has become so dependent on the supply chain. We argue that a day celebrating the supply chain has only positive outcomes.

With National Lorry Week just three weeks away, the opportunity to incorporate a wider element is there. Let us know how you plan on recognising your employers by dropping us a Tweet.

Life after the Army: Joining the Logistics Industry

For most people, security in a job and home and easy access to medical services is a lifestyle priority. For those of us who have such security, it can be difficult to comprehend that others may not be so fortunate, yet there are rising media reports of a harsh reality existing around us: homelessness, unemployment and mental health problems are not only a common occurrence but a growing problem amongst ex-army personnel.

According to reports, there are approximately 13,000 homeless veterans across the UK, and horrifically, almost all are suffering with PTSD. This can then lead to further problems, as some turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their mental health difficulties. Similarily, it has been found that ex-servicemen and women can struggle with employment prospects after life in the army; the Trajectory reports that only 52% of early service leavers report to be in education, training or employment within six months of leaving. They also found leavers to be at a higher risk of offending, alcoholism, homeless and mental health problems. Here at Barnes, we believe we are not alone when we say that these figures are too high and that more needs to be done to help and protect those who have bravely served their country.

To offer better understanding, many charities and experts explain that the difficulty transitioning back into civilan life after service is a significant cause of the above issues. So how can these problems be resolved? For those who are concerned by what job prospects may be available after service, we hope to raise awareness of careers within the professional driving industry.

Despite it being a reported concern of ex-army men and women, it is important to note that many of the skills acquired during service are transferrable to a life as a driver. The logistics industry requires employees that are calm, organised, responsible, alert, have good physical strength and high levels of concentration. Driving careers also have a similar structural aspects to life in the army – although the two are very different occupations, both are immersed in camaraderie and belonging, follow schedules and have set tasks, and both employ a team of experienced leaders that not only provide daily guidance but also encourage open, honest conversation between colleagues. All HGV drivers enjoy a number of benefits including travelling the country, job flexibility and independent and team working. In terms of the qualifications required of a HGV driver, visit a previous post of ours which breaks the requirements down.

Here at Barnes, we are passionate about helping ex-army men and women back into civilan life, and hope to promote the security a job within the driving industry offers. However, with this, we are sadly aware that even with strong job prospects, issues of health service access and homelessness can exist indpedently and so the following paragraphs aim to address this.

In terms of mental health, we believe that our in-house attitude challenges old-fashioned business models as we operate an open-door policy where we encourage all employees to confidently discuss with us anything they wish – and most importantly, we stress that all our conversations are confidential. Additionally, it is important to know that even with workplace support for mental health (and any other health issue for that matter) available, there are also a number of services available outside of the workplace too – we’ve listed the name and numbers at the end of this post and encourage you, or anyone you know that is struggling to reach out to them. Similarily, for homelessness there are a number of charities available to help find accommodation for those in need. Again, these can be found at the end of this post.

Although it can be challenging to make the transition from serving in the army to civilan life, all service personnel should know of the options they have post-army, and simply knowing of such options can ease this transition. We activitely encourage all prospective drivers to get in touch – ex-personnel or not – as it is fantastic, rewarding and has many benefits, but for those joining us from the army, it is a particularly worthwhile career path. Do not hesitate to get in touch with us on either: 01706 248795 or admin@barneslogistics.co.uk to kickstart your logistical career today.

 

Charities that help with mental health:

Combat Stress: 0800 138 1619/https://www.combatstress.org.uk

Help For Heroes:  01980 844280/ https://www.helpforheroes.org.uk/get-support/get-support/

SSAFA: 0800 731 4880/ https://www.ssafa.org.uk/help-you/do-you-need-our-help-or-support

Veterans First Point: 0131 221 7090/ https://www.veteransfirstpoint.org.uk/get-support/veterans

 

Charities that help with homelessness:

Help 4 Homeless Veterans: 0808 802 1212/ http://www.help4homelessveterans.org/contact/

Soldiers off the Street: 01745 356 622/ https://www.soldiersoffthestreet.org/contact-us

Once, We were Soldiers: 01530 839531/ https://owwsoldiers.co.uk/contact-us/

Stoll: 020 7385 2110/ https://www.stoll.org.uk

Veterans Aid: 0800 012 6867/https://veterans-aid.net/contact/

How Have Consumer Habits Changed Logistics?

 

Our previous blog post explored the rising costs placed on HGV drivers and their employers despite the obvious increase in demand for the services they provide. So not to stray too far from the financial topic on which the piece was centred, the definition of ‘demand’ was brief, and so we felt it necessary to produce a subsequent post that offered greater clarity by exploring such ‘demand’ at a deeper level.

Our lives are heavily influenced by logistics; food, technology, furniture, clothing, vehicles and their structural makeup (fabric, screws, wiring) are firstly manufactured and then passed along the supply chain until it eventually reaches the intended customer. This process has a substantial reliance on freight drivers and without their input, it would not be possible for each of us to have either the basics nor the luxuries that we desire. The supply chain process in many ways falls victim to a ‘behind-the-scenes’ effect; although it is an integral part of procedure, it is all arranged, organised and utilised away from the customer. Unless the end-user is there to sign for a parcel as it arrives, there will often be no interaction with drivers, and so a driver’s contribution (as well as that from other logistical employees) to almost all owned items is largely unknown and unacknowledged. Whilst modest drivers may not fare this a problem, the issue lies in the growing demand for deliveries and its accompanying complaint: ‘there are too many lorries on UK roads’.

A significant aspect of the increased product demand lies in the companies who offer next-day (and in some cases, same-day) delivery, a service that has come to be not only utilised by customers but expected; Amazon have revealed that 100 million people are signed up to their Prime service – a stand out feature of which is next day delivery. It stimulates concerns within us and others within the logistics industry that this want for immediate delivery will only increase in the coming years, and as an industry already in great need of new drivers and with the costs discussed in the previous blog deterring potential new talent, it seems absurd that the very idea of next-day delivery can even be offered to consumers. Supply Chain Digital claims that as a result of the demand, retailer and supply chains alike are being forced to be more agile so as to retain customer satisfaction, but as with most issues in the logistics industry, the idea of increasing ‘agility’ lacks simplicity, as a recent survey by road safety charity Brake revealed that many road users felt unsafe on UK motorways due to the increase in HGV traffic.

Given the size of lorries and the speed at which all road users travel at on the motorway, fears can be appreciated, however, it brings to attention that better education is needed, as research proves road safety levels to be quite the contrary to the given worries. The volume of HGV traffic on motorways has only risen marginally, increasing by 2.6% over the last 11 years, whilst figures recorded over the past six years show a decrease in motorway fatalities and injuries involving a HGV. As Christopher Snelling, head of UK policy at FTA so accurately highlights in reference to these findings: “The driver perceptions Brake has focused on are not reflective of reality”.

It brings to light a vital question; how can supply chains offer greater agility (often through delivery options, thus affecting HGV drivers) when the very presence of lorries making such deliveries are continuously being demonised by both the press and public? So whilst consumer habits are changing the logistics industry, it seems that the public do not understand how; if they did, surely there would be a greater level of knowledge for why there is significant HGV traffic on motorways (we say ‘significant’ with caution – it is significant in the eyes of the public, but not in terms of statistics). To resolve the problem, we believe that education is imperative. If consumers understand where their products are coming from and the intricacies involved in bringing products to their doorsteps, would there be such a demand, such a demonization and would there be more support in reducing the associated costs of HGV driving? We can only hope so.

Let us know your thoughts on how consumer behaviour has affected your experiences by dropping us a tweet.

 

The Rising Cost of UK Roads vs the Rising Expectation of HGV Drivers

As public and business demand for logistics increases, the nationwide shortage of HGV drivers only becomes more detrimental. As it currently stands, the UK are short of approximately 45,000 drivers – a figure which in a society with a high demand for delivered goods is extremely concerning. Perhaps more concerning still is the lack of efforts being exerted to secure more drivers; it seems that recent industry proposals which supposedly aim to tackle the problems at hand are instead focused on government economic gain rather than real solutions. The monetary gain of which we speak is largely referring to the abundance of new regulations which seemingly aim to lower the worrying levels of emissions yet cause financial strain for those who work within the driving industry. In recent months, the news has emphasised how such financial strains also exist beyond the topic of pollution – articles have detailed how drivers will be fined for working beyond legal hours and how networks such as the M6 toll as well as local councils plan to introduce new HGV charges. Whilst we at Barnes are keen to play an active role in tackling the environmental and social issues that the UK faces, we also wish to highlight the detrimental nature that increasing fines have on an already strained, short-staffed and much-needed industry. The following offers a reflection, drawing on many of our past comments, but considers them in terms of financial impact that new proposals may have by asking, how are the rising costs of UK Roads affecting the rising expectation of HGV drivers?

In July an increase in M6 toll prices was announced. Vehicles can expect to see an increase of approximately 50p; for lorries, this takes prices up to £11.50 during the week and £9.80 at the weekend. The news has attracted criticism from supportive industry bodies like The Road Haulage Association, with the body’s chief executive claiming that the changes make the M6 an unaffordable, unviable route for HGV drivers. The Midland Expressway, however, claim that there is a ‘necessity’ for increases as it will reduce journey times and result in a motorway system that is “great value for money”. They offer further attempts of justification by  adding that ‘pay-as-you-go’ routes are very popular with HGV drivers. The RHA chief, who directly communicate with drivers, presents a contrasting but pivotal point: “Why have the Midlands Expressway decided to increase the rate for HGVs now – at a time when the price of diesel has just risen by another two pence per litre – adding over £800 per vehicle to a trucker’s annual operating costs?”

The news comes after it was announced that haulage companies can now also expect to pay less tax on ‘environmentally friendly’ vehicles, but as we have previously highlighted, it seems that the greater issue at hand is not being addressed; not all can afford to buy an entire new fleet and so are forced to pay more tax.

Additionally, with emissions levels deemed a major issue, hauling bodies are confused as to why such charges are being increased, as they will undoubtedly lead to HGV drivers to use alternative routes to the M6. Such routes are likely to be A and B roads – the very urbanised areas where the government and local councils are attempting to lower pollution levels.

Yet in these very areas, some councils are campaigning to introduce ‘congestion’ charges for HGVs. Dorchester town centre, for example, is keen to implement fines on lorries that travel through the borough without making deliveries, using cameras to track their movements. But as discussed above, it is likely that the M6 toll price hike will cause an increase in town traffic.

In addition to these expected cost increases, there have been a number of other financial hits to the HGV driving industry. Earlier this year, it was announced that on-the-spot-fines would be given to drivers exceeding their tachograph hour restrictions. Having spoken in depth on this issue before, we can only reiterate our previous comments: are drivers only tampering with tachographs to meet strict delivery deadlines? As these issues have continued to develop since our last blog post, we would now like to additionally ask, how can financial punishments be effective when the pressure and expectation on HGV drivers is not easing, particularly with a severe skills shortage to also consider?

It is with great disappointment that we pen our beliefs: eventually, all HGV drivers will be penalised, regardless of route, and yet demand for logistics and deliveries will not falter. With the news of various fines dominating our daily news, we fear that prospective drivers may be deterred from entering the industry, thus worsening the problem at all angles. Thankfully, as an industry, we have a supportive body that campaigns against newly proposed charges, but, as an individual business, we urge the government to address the problems at hand before imposing fines. Realistically, the expectation on drivers is set to increase, therefore it is vital to exert greater efforts into the recruitment and retention of new drivers, whilst also exploring alternative ways to reduce emissions and congestion. If these requests are met, it is possible that the industry can thrive once again.

Let us know your thoughts by dropping us a tweet.

Shifting it up a Gear: Learner Drivers Take to the Motorway

Statistically, motorways are the safest of UK roads. One could not be judged however, for thinking otherwise – with their high speed, multiple lanes and various exits, they appear more complicated than standard A and B roads. Yet despite this, research has found motorway safety levels to be quite contrary to their aesthetic complexity – Aviva reported that accidents are actually seven times more likely to occur on rural roads than motorways – a figure that is somewhat surprising given the perceived dangers of the motorway.

 

The image of ‘danger’ that surrounds motorway driving could be seen to not only stem from repeated scare stories that have become a common place within our daily media consumption, but also from the demonization of such roads during our learning years. As a learner – the only driver exempt from using the motorway – the thought of using the motorway after qualifying without guidance can be intensely daunting, in fact, it is reported that one in twelve drivers will actively avoid using the motorway for at least six months after qualification. Given that it would do well for such roads to remain the safest to travel on, it seems absurd that until now, learners have been refused the opportunity to extend their experience portfolio to motorways. Until the beginning of June, it was legal for a driver to travel on the motorway having never done so before passing their test, and without guidance. It’s not hard to see how this could lead to dangerous road conditions with new drivers suddenly faced with a more complicated lane system on their own, further emphasised by the fact that these roads previously being ‘off limits’ can lead to nervous drivers behind the wheel – the thought process of ‘these roads must be difficult, because I was not previously allowed on them.’

 

Now however, the laws have been changed to address this. Since the 4th June 2018, learners have been permitted to use UK motorways under the guidance of an approved instructor and in a dual controlled car. Whilst these lessons are not compulsory, it is a significant step forward in bettering the experience of drivers prior to passing their test, and in our professional opinion, it can only help to make motorways safer still.

 

Whilst this is our opinion, it would seem that the general driving population is divided – with only 44% believing that learners should be allowed on the motorway without a full license. 42% supported the new laws, whilst the remaining 14% expressed a frustration in potentially being ‘stuck’ behind a learner who did not reach the speed limit. Although a total of 56% expressing the potential negative effects of the legislation, further research found that 70% wish the law had been changed sooner, as they would have benefited from lessons before they qualified.

 

Here at Barnes, we appreciate that there may be some safety concerns surrounding these new changes for those already qualified, however, as transport professionals in the midst of a skills shortage crisis, we welcome the new legislation and will be respectful of any learners that we may see on the motorway, as it is these drivers who may become the next generation of much-needed HGV operators. We strongly believe that if we can encourage young people to practice using the motorway whilst learning, the misconception that they must be too difficult to attempt will disappear, and improve safety levels on the UK’s roads will improve. And with this, it is entirely possible that such learners may come to enjoy motorway driving and pursue it as a career!

 

Let us know your thoughts on the new legislation by dropping us a tweet.

Brexit: Two Years On, One To Go

Ever since the country voted to leave the European Union back in 2017, discussions on the topic has been unsurprisingly pessimistic. With less than a year to go until the big day – 29th March 2019 – in recent days industry bodies have been voicing even more concerns about the Government’s ability to deliver a coherent exit plan.

According to a recent Financial Times report, the sector has ‘lost patience’ with Whitehall, with all from national logistics representatives to individual lorry drivers presenting their dismay at the Government’s lack of action, claiming it is now too late for a frictionless exit from the EU.

Of course, all industries are bracing themselves for the effect that Brexit will have on business – but few will feel the effects as close as ours. Financial services and international businesses will worry about levies and trade, but the logistics industry is the sector which will face physical barriers at borders and as we attempt to run our businesses.

In a previous blog, we highlighted an astonishing figure highlighted by the FTA: that over 90% of all the public eats, drinks, wears and purchases has, at some point, travelled on a HGV. For something which affects such a huge part of everyday life and UK enterprise, surely this should have been made a priority? What is most worrying is reports of the progression of the FTA’s private meetings with the Government: out of the their 8 proposals to keep Britain trading smoothly, none have been implanted yet.

As well as border problems for trade, there is also the issue of EU nationals working in the industry which has, again, yet to be addressed. The driving industry is already facing a serious shortage, with less young people entering the profession and the current drivers facing their well-earned retirement. It is no understatement to say that the industry relies on dedicated workers who come from Europe to fill the skills gap. Until the Government does more to boost and train young people into driving, it would seem that the industry would be taking a double hit if we do address the issue of our need for European workers.

The clock is ticking on the Brexit clock… When will the country’s leaders realise the importance of prioritising logistics?

Is Pollution Polluting the HGV Industry’s Image?

In recent months, there has been one issue at the forefront of the media attention on the HGV driving industry; vehicle emissions. Heavy Goods Vehicles, namely lorries and buses, are positioned by the media as the prominent (if not the sole) cause of the growing pollution problem across both the UK and Europe. Whilst such claims hold some stature – HGVs, due to their size and load weight do cause a higher level of emissions than other fuelled vehicles –  here at Barnes, we fear that the prevalence of news articles that paint lorries in a negative manner is detrimental to the industry’s image despite their importance in a functioning, modern-day society. It seems that the news fails to appreciate the very real, consistent demand for road freight, from both businesses and the public alike, and how this in turn affects emission levels. As a result, we, as an industry, find ourselves caught in a catch 22 situation.

Over the past year, the level of emissions expelled from lorries has not only come to light, but also the ‘cheating’ of emissions has been publicised, whereby lorry drivers and/or freight companies utilise devices that are designed to stop the emissions measuring system from working correctly. To tackle both these problems, numerous methods of resolution have been proposed, from roadside checks, to new levy tax Laws and ‘smart’ traffic lights. Whilst we do not condone neither high emissions level nor the cheating of emissions declaration, we hope that this blog will highlight the knock-on effect of such reports on the freight sector. As a company directly involved with heavy goods vehicles, we see very little effort exerted into maintaining a positive media image of freight transport. To explore why this may be, we firstly need to consider whether the claims on emissions are factual.

Like many others who operate within the transport industry, here at Barnes, we appreciate that given their dimensions, HGVs do release significantly more emissions than their transport counterparts and this is seemingly evidenced with shocking statistics; Reuters report that 65% – 70% of all EU emissions are caused by HGVs. In the UK, the Government claims that lorries produce approximately 20% of emissions of the UK, however, leading industry body, the Road Haulage Association, has challenged such reports with research that finds that lorries and buses to actually only account for 7.6% of NOx emissions – quite a difference in figures. Regardless of the correct figures, the percentage of emissions is too high, and all in the transport industry should commit to reducing these levels immediately to preserve our planet. We’ve brought this to our reader’s attention before in a previous blog, and whilst we still call for action on emission reducing methods, we also ask for clarity for industry operators; this is key in order to correctly tackle the issue at hand. Perhaps if accurate information was clear and readily available, hauliers could make the necessary changes sooner, which in turn, may reduce the negative press.

For all the negative press, there comes a forgotten, but vital, piece of information. The FTA’s Head of UK Policy, Christopher Snelling aptly frames it; “HGVs are an integral part of the economy at both national, regional and local level. Currently, there are no commercially or operationally viable alternatives to diesel in terms of HGV motive power.”

As such, the Road Haulage Association has asked that the Government ‘slows down’ the implementation of emission combat schemes, as currently, it appears that the schemes simply aim to ‘tax lorries out of towns and cities’. By allowing a longer time period of compliance – for many ‘compliance’ refers to the adoption of cleaner trucks – hauliers could allow for relevant charges to be paid whilst also minimising costs on businesses who rely on the vehicles. The turn-around time, the RHA claims, is not flexible enough.

Yet there remains a demand for deliveries within a specific time-frame. Increasing pressure grows for firms to provide a ‘same-day’ delivery service, if not, at the very least a ‘next-day’ delivery option, but are such services sustainable, particularly if hauliers have to replace or modify existing vehicles to comply with results? And if turn-around time is negatively impacted, how will this reflect on the industry in the eyes of the public?

Here at Barnes, we believe that more needs to be done to tackle lorry emissions and those who are cheating emissions. However, we equally feel that more should be done to reshape the perception of the HGV industry and their contribution to emissions; it is a public-serving sector that in recent years has grown considerably and for many, has become a necessity. Therefore, we have become trapped in a catch 22 situation, and in order to comply with emission standards, greater flexibility needs to be provided so not to affect the supply chain of key consumer purchases.

So, we ask, is pollution polluting the HGV industry’s image? Let us know what steps you think need to be taken in order to tackle the emissions crisis by dropping us a tweet.

Digital Driving

It can often be difficult to comprehend the level at which digitalisation infiltrates our daily life; it has become so commonplace that it can be difficult to remember, or for the young amongst us, to imagine a world without electronics, apps or social media. Whilst the transport and warehousing industry is largely built upon electronic and digital foundations, it was inevitable that it would one day follow suit in embracing the rise of digitalisation beyond factory walls. In recent years, vehicles have become increasingly digitalised, with self-park modes, in-car phones and paper tax discs transitioning to an online service only. Our roads have also adapted with smart motorways and lanes that have the capability to charge electric cars as they drive. Now, there are further proposals still; digital driving licenses are being considered, new virtual reality safety apps are being launched and of course, the introduction of autonomous vehicles looms.

The necessity and productivity of each upcoming proposal, in our opinion, varies. Within this piece we shall assess how the sector will be affected by the digitalisations on our horizon, namely the digitalised driving licence, implementation of autonomous vehicles onto British roads and lastly, the launch of the virtual reality app.

Although perhaps only a minor change to the industry, last year saw the first trial of digital driving licenses, allowing motorists to carry their licence with them without having a physical copy to hand. The intention is to offer drivers numerous benefits that do not otherwise exist; from reducing fraud and theft to allowing greater ease in renewing almost-expired licenses. It’s practicality however should be drawn to question with security breaches a potential risk; would drivers be protected in the case of mobile theft? Equally, in the unfortunate event of an accident, will it be more difficult to identify drivers? Here at Barnes, we feel that this concern is particularly pressing; as mobile phones are becoming increasingly reliant on fingerprint technology to unlock the device, if a physical license was not at the scene, would it possible to identify the driver if they were unconscious? To move away from morbidity, we believe that with these points taken into consideration then the digitalised licence could become a useful addition to the digital driving portfolio. This, however, is merely a small-scale change to the world of digitalisation within the driving industry, with one greatly significant change fast approaching; autonomous vehicles.

Ambiguously set to hit our roads ‘later this year’, it seems that driverless vehicles are on the horizon . In countries such as Belgium, tests have already begun, whilst in the US the trials are now a regularity, with some brands advertising public use of their driverless cars. However, following recent reports of a pedestrian death caused by autonomous vehicles, the safety of the autonomous vehicles must be called into question. Although it was the first-known incident of its kind, it was far from the first autonomous vehicle accident; a similar outcome evolved with a Tesla model after it failed to recognise the hazard as it occurred, and so the “the brake was not applied”. It seems that these accidents are becoming a commonality amongst driverless vehicles, and we fear that these accidents would only be accentuated if they were to involve larger vehicles.

The details surrounding the trials and potential launch of autonomous HGVs it seems are less public and are being kept out of the limelight. Yet discussions are underway with officials – this much the public do know. Having spoken in detail about this topic before, we ask once again; are autonomous HGVs really the safest addition to our roads? Here at Barnes, we urge the Government to reconsider their plans; not only would driverless HGVs affect the livelihood of millions of drivers, but as before, we want to reiterate that the skills humans, particularly in cases of sudden, uncontrollable variables, cannot be undermined. For all the positives that come from the digitalisation of various transport systems, we, and others in the industry alike, fear that with driverless vehicles and HGVs, the cons significantly outweigh the pros.

To finish on a positive note, we wanted to reflect on the newly launched app from Highways England that aims to improve driver awareness of blind spots. The smartphone app, used in conjunction with cardboard goggles, aims to accurately recreate a driving environment where the acknowledgement of blind spots are vital, such as, joining a motorway, overtaking and tailgating. Whilst our employees are qualified to the highest standards, we believe that all drivers should have the option of improving their driving skills further and that there is no such thing as too much practice! If you have tried out the app, let us know your thoughts on it using our Twitter feed.

As the digital world continues to evolve, we expect that further changes will be made to the transport industry. Whilst some could be considered pivotal, be this in a positive or negative manner as demonstrated with the new VR app in comparison to driverless vehicles, others are only minor changes. Currently, it seems that most digitalisation movements are simply ‘in discussion’, but, if the safety of all road users are completely considered and used to motivate and shape future necessary additions to the industry, we believe that the transport industry as a whole can benefit.

HGV Levy Changes: Is Tax Our Best Solution?

For those in the logistics industry, news of the new HGV Levy Tax has been unavoidable. In essence, in order to tackle emission levels in our country’s most polluted areas, from 2019 the Government will introduce additional tax rules aimed at HGVs which don’t meet the latest emissions standards.

 

Looking to tackle nitrogen oxide in particular, the Government claims that lorries make up for 5% of the country’s mileage, but produce around 20% of the total emissions in the UK. Those who do not meet the new standards will see a significant 20% added to their tax bill. But there is an upside – those who do meet the standard will be eligible for a 10% reduction in their road tax.

 

Of course, the protection of our planet is of the utmost importance. Here at Barnes Logistics it is a much discussed topicon our blog page, and one which – as a responsible business – we understand we have a significant role to play. There is no denying that HGVs produce larger amounts of emissions and this is a key factor to tackle in the battle for the future of our planet, but is a simple tax the best means of creating a better future for us all?

 

The main issue with the new HGV taxes are very aptly summed up by Christopher Snelling, Head of UK Policy at the FTA: “Over 90% of everything the public eat, drink, wear and build with travels on an HGV at some point in the supply chain.”

 

This poignant statement brings the Government’s previous 5% mileage and 20% emissions claim into a much broader perspective. Of course we must work towards a greener future where lorries are concerned, but the logistics industry is one which is weaved throughout the entire of the UK’s economy – it is not a merely internally benefitting business.

 

Almost every single business across all sectors rely on incoming deliveries of ingredients or parts, and outgoing distributions are necessary for finished products to be shipped to paying customers. So although HGVs may create a fifth of the country’s nitrogen oxide emissions, over 90% of the country benefit from the services provided by logistics experts. So why should drivers and logistics companies be the only ones punished?

 

Of course, we understand that a line must be drawn somewhere, and that taxing businesses for their use of logistics services is somewhat unachievable, and may impact small businesses in particular who may struggle to find the extra funds to cover the costs of their deliveries.

 

So what could be a more sophisticated alternative? Perhaps in the future, the taxes saved and made from these new laws could all be invested into the advancement of more eco-friendly HGV technology, and these technologies could be made more accessible to logistics businesses of all sizes. It would seem to us that the solution lies in creating more advanced possibilities for the logistics industry, as opposed to the relative simplicity of punishing one body for a service that is required by all. If the future of HGVs is lower emissions, more investment must be made into greener technology.

 

What are your thoughts on the new taxes, do you think that there is a better alternative?